The Barking Lot
Sit, stay, learn! Our blog about all things dog.
If you’ve been lucky enough to share your life with a pit bull, you know that these bull-and-terrier mixes are true gems of the canine world, overflowing with joy and love for their people and packed with personality. Unfortunately, most pit bull owners are also familiar with one or more pit bull skin issues! Pit bulls are prone to skin problems like allergies, dry skin, hot spots, dermatitis, and hair loss. Fortunately, all that ails them is treatable!
Why Do Pit Bulls Have Skin Problems?
The term “pit bull” describes a type of dog rather than a specific breed, but one common quality which these dogs share are their short, velvety coats. Pit bulls are single-coated, meaning that they have only one type of hair on their bodies. Double-coated breeds, by contrast, have a layer of longer guard hairs as well as a soft, insulating undercoat, which keeps them warmer and protects their skin from the elements. Due to their short fur and lack of undercoat, pit bulls’ skin is not shielded from environmental allergens and irritants, making them more susceptible to skin problems.
Additionally, without oversight from a kennel club, pit bulls have mostly been bred without regard for genetics, allowing some hereditary issues to be passed on through generations, including some that affect skin and coat health.
Signs and Symptoms of Pit Bull Skin Conditions
Fortunately, most skin conditions are easy to spot and treatable once confirmed by a vet. Dogs with skin issues can be self-destructive as they try in vain to solve their discomfort, so it’s important to identify the signs of skin issues and seek treatment early to avoid a chronic condition or secondary infection.
Keep watch for these signs and symptoms of skin conditions:
- Red or inflamed skin
- Paw chewing or licking
- Dry, itchy skin
- Excessive scratching, biting
- The appearance of scabs or sores
What Causes Pit Bull Skin Issues?
If your dog is experiencing any of the above symptoms, something in your home, yard, or community could be to blame. Irritants like dust mites, pollen, and pesticides can cause a reaction which will affect your dog’s skin first. Seasonal allergies affect pets as much as humans, so keep an eye on your pit bull when the seasons are changing and you may be getting sniffly.
- Ear infections commonly occur alongside environmental allergies, so watch for excessive head shaking or scratching at one ear.
- Paw licking and chewing is another sign that your pit bull could be suffering from environmental allergies.
Skin allergies can also be triggered by ingredients in your dog’s food or treats. Food allergies are one of the five most common hypersensitivities which affect dogs. Although any ingredient can cause an allergic reaction, proteins included in your dog’s diet are the most common culprits.
- Digestive issues like diarrhea or mucus-coated stools often accompany food allergies.
- Chewing at paws and around the base of the tail can also indicate food allergies.
Although all dogs (and humans!) have a few microscopic mange mites on their skin, they are generally not an issue for a dog with a healthy immune system. Demodectic mange, the most common type of mange affecting dogs, is not contagious, but if left untreated it can cause a severe, painful condition.
Young dogs under 18 months of age have immature immune systems and can be more prone to developing demodectic mange. Severe stress can also weaken a dog’s immune system, allowing mange to develop. Sadly, pit bulls are the most common breed in US shelters, and they tend to stay in shelters longer than other dogs, leading to anxiety, stress, and often, mange.
- Hair loss around the face can be a sign of mange, as well as thickened skin and scabbing.
Flea Allergy Dermatitis
Fleas are not only a nuisance to exterminate, but these tiny creatures can wreak havoc on your pit bull’s skin. Dermatitis from fleas is caused when your dog’s system reacts to the saliva injected into the skin upon being bitten by a flea.
Finally, some genetic issues can cause skin problems for bully breeds, in both purebred and mixed breed individuals. Hereditary skin issues include hyperkeratosis, zinc deficiency, and some types of dermatitis.
How to Treat Pit Bull Skin Problems
Luckily, most pit bull skin problems are treatable or even preventable! Some minor issues can be resolved easily at home, while others will require the assistance of a vet. All skin issues need prompt attention to prevent skin infection and chronic issues.
Start with a Vet Visit
If your pit bull is displaying the above symptoms, it’s time to visit your vet! A professional can help you to pinpoint the cause of the itching and hair loss and prescribe medications to treat the problem. Your vet may start with a skin scrape to check for parasites such as mange mites or ringworm.
If your vet suspects allergies, they may suggest a canine allergen test. This can sometimes be pricey, but the other option—trying to rule out individual allergens in your dog’s food or environment—takes much longer. An allergy test can quickly and accurately get to the root of the issue.
Does My Pit Bull Need Expensive Allergy Shots?
Today, many vets prescribe monthly allergy shots for dogs with confirmed allergies. While these injections are generally quite effective at reducing symptoms, they do not “solve” the allergy. They can be quite pricey and will be required for the rest of your dog’s life, so consider your budget before deciding to take this route. The best way to deal with dog allergies is always to remove the offending allergens.
Treat Skin Irritation with a Natural Balm
Dry skin, itchy spots, and even yeast infections can be treated and healed with a soothing natural balm like Skin Soother. A powerful blend of herbal ingredients work together in this balm: lavender helps reduce itching, swelling, and redness, chamomile helps speed up healing, frankincense prevents infection, and myrrh helps fight viral and fungal infections. All this in a convenient topical formula that absorbs into your dog’s skin much more quickly than coconut oil! Don’t take our word for it, here’s a real customer’s review:
At first I was skeptical to try a product that was advertised on Instagram and Facebook! I would get friends tagging me in posts from the Natural Dog Company all the time, because they knew the struggle I had with my girl’s skin. I have used the Skin Soother stick a max of 5 times, once a day over the course of 2 weeks and I cannot believe the difference it has already made in Skyy’s skin! I’ve never seen her belly so white with no staining or irritation! I will continue to use this product for sure! Don’t knock it until you try it! Can’t wait to share what I have found with other Pittie owners!
— Chelsea and her pit bull, Skyy
Remove Allergens with a Healing Shampoo
A healthy pit bull usually does not require frequent bathing, but if your dog is dealing with allergies, a quality natural dog shampoo can help alleviate some symptoms! Itchy Dog Shampoo‘s hypoallergenic formula is perfect for washing away surface-level irritants while providing soothing relief to your pup’s itchy skin. It’s also totally free of sulfates, parabens, alcohol, toxins, and perfumes which can be found in other grooming products.
Prevent & Heal Skin Issues with Supplements
Prevention is the best medicine, and there are many ways to prevent pit bull skin problems before they even begin. Start with a high quality Skin and Coat Supplement to keep your pit bull’s skin and coat healthy and velvety. Our supplement chews have been formulated to reduce itching and irritation associated with allergies and improve the look and feel of coarse, brittle fur. A must for every pit bull!
For an added boost of healing benefits, combine Skin and Coat Supplement chews with a high quality Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil, a potent source of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. This one-ingredient food topper also helps support your pit bull’s immune, cognitive, joint, and heart health—what’s not to love?
Keep Your Pit Bull Healthy
Pit bulls can live 12 to 15 years if properly cared for and nurtured, but their care and maintenance is not too different from most other dogs. Truly, a pit bull’s greatest need is love—these dogs are emotional and people-oriented, and although they may seem tough and determined, they need to be included as part of the family.
It might be misleading to call pit bulls “low maintenance,” but with some simple guidelines, you can help your pit bull live a long and fulfilling life. Routine care includes:
- Regular exercise — pit bulls are athletic dogs who need daily exercise to keep them healthy and happy
- Mental enrichment — bully breeds are intelligent and determined, so be prepared to try puzzle toys and brain games with your pup, or they might make up their own (and you won’t like their ideas!)
- Routine coat care — weekly brushing is suitable for a pit bull’s short coat, as well as infrequent baths with a dog shampoo designed for sensitive skin
- Durable treats and toys — pit bulls love to gnaw, so be sure to provide long-lasting chews and tough toys for their entertainment
- Parasite prevention — consistent flea, tick, and heartworm medications are essential for any dog
- High quality diet — choose a high end kibble or wet food to minimize allergy issues, and add quality supplements to boost mealtime benefits